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Corona Civica

"Augustus alone has a name that ranks with great Jove.
Sacred things are called august by the senators,
And so are temples duly dedicated by priestly hands.
From the same root comes the word augury,
And Jupiter augments things by his power.
May he augment our leaderís empire and his years,
And may the oak-leaf crown protect his doors.
By the godís auspices, may the fatherís omens
Attend the heir of so great a name, when he rules the world."

Ovid, Fasti (I.608ff)

This marble bust, which is in the Glyptothek (Munich), shows Augustus wearing the civic crown (corona civica), a wreath of oak leaves tied with a fillet. Aulus Gellius relates that it was made of oak leaves because the earliest food to support life came from the oak (Attic Nights, V.6.12). It was awarded in 27 BC, when Octavian was recognized as Caesar Augustus, princeps and emperor of Rome (Res Gestae, XXXIV). The crown, itself, was given to a Roman who had saved the life of a fellow citizen in battle, slaying the enemy who threatened him. Augustus wore it in recognition that he had saved the country from the civil war that ended with the battle of Actium in 31 BC. (It had been proposed, too, that Cicero receive the civic crown for having thwarted the conspiracy of Catiline.)

"How worthy of eternity is a national character that rewarded exploits so distinguished with honour only, and whereas it enhanced the value of its other wreaths with gold, refused to allow the rescue of a citizen to be a thing of price, thus loudly proclaiming that it is wrong even to save the life of a human being for the sake of gain!" (Pliny, XVI.5.14).

Suetonius records that Augustus' hair was "slightly curly and inclining to golden," his Roman nose "projected a little at the top and then bent slightly inward" (Life, LXXIX). The portrait bust presumably would have been painted, the yellow hair set off against the green oak leaves and purple ribbon.

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